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TheOtherDave comments on Epistle to the New York Less Wrongians - Less Wrong

90 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 April 2011 09:13PM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 April 2011 09:50:37PM 5 points [-]

I agree completely with you that "how some roleplaying nerd thinks you should pick up wenches" bears no meaningful relationship to real social dynamics, so it's all password-guessing.

From my perspective, the same thing was true of slicing swords through armor, raising allied morale, casting spells, praying for divine intervention, avoiding diseases in the swamp, etc. None of those simulated activities bore any meaningful relationship to the real thing they ostensibly simulated.

But I'll grant that in the latter cases, there were usually formal rules written down, so I didn't have to guess the passwords: I could read them in a book, memorize them, and optimize for them. (At least, assuming the GM followed them scrupulously.)

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2011 02:58:21AM *  2 points [-]

But I'll grant that in the latter cases, there were usually formal rules written down, so I didn't have to guess the passwords: I could read them in a book, memorize them, and optimize for them. (At least, assuming the GM followed them scrupulously.)

Then, of course, there are the actual strategic roleplaying choices. Not the mere tactical ones of how to fight some orcs. The ones where you have to make a choice on where you go next. Roughly speaking you are often best off choosing what the rational course of action is and then picking the opposite. It's a lot more fun, the battles are both more likely and more of a challenge and you get far more experience! If the DM already has a plan on how long his adventure will take to complete and a rough idea of what you'll be fighting at the end then the more danger you encounter in the mean time the better. So go sleep in that haunted wood then walk into what is obviously a trap.

Does anyone remember where Eliezer joked about leaving his spare coins around under random objects? He also made a point that in roleplaying games you are usually best served by going around and doing everything else first instead of doing the thing that is the shortest path to getting what you want.

Comment author: loqi 25 April 2011 08:22:32AM 1 point [-]

Roughly speaking you are often best off choosing what the rational course of action is and then picking the opposite.

I consider this a symptom of poor scenario design - the availability of unpredictably optimal actions is the key technical difference (there are of course social differences) between open-ended and computer-mediated games. If the setting is incompatible with the characters' motivations, it's impossible to maintain the fiction that they're even really trying, and either the setting's incentives or the characters' motivations (or both in tandem) need revision.

Running a good open-ended game in the presence of imaginative and intelligent players is hard. You either leave lots of material unused, or rob the game of its key strength by over-constraining the set of possible actions.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 24 April 2011 12:11:26PM 1 point [-]

Sure.

Of course, it helps to be clear about what you actually want.

IME most computer RPG designers assume their players want to "beat the game": that is, to do whatever the game makes challenging as efficiently as possible. And they design for that, clearly signaling what the assigned challenges are and providing a steadily progressing path of greater challenge and increased capacity to handle those challenges. (As you and EY point out, this often involves completely implausible strategic considerations.)

This is also true of a certain flavor of TT RPG, where the GM designs adventures as a series of challenging obstacles and puzzles which the players must overcome/solve in order to obtain various rewards. (And as you suggested earlier, one could also imagine a social RPG built on this model.)

In other (rarer) flavors of TT, and in most forum-based RPGs, it's more like collaborating on a piece of fiction: the GM designs adventures as a narrative setting which the players must interact with in order to tell an interesting story.

It can be jarring when the two styles collide, of course.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2011 12:51:30PM 0 points [-]

It can be jarring when the two styles collide, of course.

There is far more than a difference of styles at work.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 24 April 2011 02:16:15PM 0 points [-]

Well, that's portentous. Is this meant as a back-reference to the things you've already discussed in this thread, or as an intimation of things left unsaid?

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2011 03:19:18PM *  0 points [-]

Is this meant as a back-reference to the things you've already discussed in this thread, or as an intimation of things left unsaid?

The former, but I suppose both apply. Either way I thought enough had been said and wanted to exit the conversation without particularly implying agreement but without making a fuss.either. A simple assertion of position was appropriate. While strictly true saying "further conversation would just involve spinning new ways of framing stuff for the purpose of arguing for a position and generally be boring and uninformative" would represent connotations that I didn't want to convey at the time. The conversation to that point was positive and had merely exhausted the potential. Quit before it is just an argument.

Since you asked.

Comment author: CuSithBell 24 April 2011 09:35:41PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, I think roleplayers and writers share the position that sadism is one of the most important virtues.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 April 2011 05:55:37AM *  0 points [-]

Yeah, I think roleplayers and writers share the position that sadism is one of the most important virtues.

I read some Ian Irvine a while back - the punishment he deals out to his two protagonists goes through sadistic and out the other side. But on the other hand he did let the pair hook up and have a stable, secure relationship whenever one or the other wasn't either kidnapped or out alone on the run in the forest with no food and probably a broken leg. I didn't quite make it through the series but I assume they lived happily (albeit in intermittent agony and constant adversity) ever after. So he's just sadistic, not cruel. :)

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2011 02:48:39AM 1 point [-]

From my perspective, the same thing was true of slicing swords through armor, raising allied morale, casting spells, praying for divine intervention, avoiding diseases in the swamp, etc. None of those simulated activities bore any meaningful relationship to the real thing they ostensibly simulated.

Like Melf's Minute Meteors doing fire damage. Those things are still supercooled by the time they hit the ground. Those trolls should be fine! (Until you use Melf's Acid Arrow).